I joined Keep Scotland Beautiful in October 2021, as one of two Climate Festival Officers. Scotland’s Climate Festival is a Scottish Government funded initiative, started with the key aims of engaging communities in a national climate conversation and fostering support for national climate policy. Building on our track record of supporting communities across Scotland to become engaged in climate change action Keep Scotland Beautiful launched Scotland’s Climate Festival at the beginning of November, during Cop26, when the profile of climate change had arguably never been higher in Scotland.
Climate Festival is divided into two strands, a national programme of events (free and open to all), and community festivals. Any community group, constituted or not, is welcome to apply, and we have seed fund grants of up to £500 available. Of course, winter and a global pandemic aren’t the ideal situations to be hosting events, but we have been inspired by the uptake so far. People are taking on the challenge of holding community events outside in winter and hosting many different iterations of growing workshops or days. These events focus on general introductions to growing, including seed sowing and saving, and composting. Food and growing are excellent issues to start climate conversations as they encompass waste, water, emissions, and biodiversity while providing people with the joy of harvesting their own fruit and veg to cook something delicious at the end!
Our national event series of events kicked off in December with a discussion of Scotland’s future post-Cop26, following the Glasgow Climate Pact, and at the beginning of January, we held an online event on the role of women in sustainable food systems. As the events have been held online due to Covid-19 restrictions, we have benefitted to the extent that we can invite speakers from all over the UK and further afield (including Zambia and New Zealand!) and people can likewise attend from any location if they have Wi-Fi and a laptop. However, an important part of the project is reaching beyond those who are ‘already engaged’ on climate change to include all voices in climate conversations.
While online events and social media posts allow you to connect to anyone, anywhere, this becomes a different story when accounting for digital poverty. Ranging from lack of access to a phone, laptop, computer or tablet, to a Wi-Fi connection or low levels of digital literacy digital poverty presents us with a challenge to overcome. The fact the pandemic has moved life online has only exacerbated the digital poverty gap. Starting up a community engagement project based around events has meant we will continue to have to be more imaginative about reaching different communities and think carefully about what the best strategies might be.
On the bright side, community engagement and community climate action have a long history in Scotland. There are well-established networks to connect to, and newer ones like the Climate Beacons project run by Creative Carbon Scotland. We plan to utilise existing networks and collaborate with organisations who have already built trust and positive relationships with different communities.
We are in a great place just now to support communities and local authorities with our portfolio of climate action offer – we are working with seven communities across Scotland to support them to develop bespoke climate action plans, and we are seeing a massive uptake from all sectors, public, private and community for our Climate Emergency Training.
At the moment, we have climate events as part of Scotland’s Climate Festival happening across Scotland – from the Isle of Coll to Fife and Galloway. However, engagement is not just a question of geographical representation, but also social, and I’m looking forward to working more on this issue as the Climate Festival continues.
If you want to find out more about the scheduled national series of events or wish to encourage communities in your local authority area to register an existing event with us or access funding or support please get in touch with me at email@example.com or visit our website here.